Heartbreak is an indescribable feeling that blends mental and physical pain into a bane that one wouldn’t wish on their worst enemy. It’s been awhile since it’s been so accurately portrayed in the form of a full-length album, at least as accurately as Tyler, The Creator has on his new record IGOR, which cements him as one of the best artists of our generation. IGOR is an amalgamation of profuse and delightful arrangements — pulling elements from jazz, pop, soul, rap, electronic music, and more into his most focused and cohesive, but also unpredictable project to date. Tyler finds peace in accepting the outcome of a relationship, creating an immersive soundscape full of catchy love tunes, balancing brashness and beauty in a way that exquisitely captures the joy, sorrow, and anger of a loving but unhealthy relationship that takes a turn for the worst.
IGOR represents the best and worst of a relationship, tied together through themes of self-realization and individualism. It’s an on-the-nose portrayal of the full cycle of a relationship and the heartbreak that tends to result from it, capturing everything to an extent, from the warm and fuzzy feelings that kick off every relationship, all the way to the terms two ex-lovers find themselves on after a breakup. On IGOR, Tyler covers more than the post-breakup wallowing that we see on a majority of the songs and albums centered around heartbreak. Dwelling in one’s pain such as this is a necessary and very real part of heartbreak, but Tyler takes a heartbreak album to the next level, covering not only the pain a breakup causes one, but also the growth that results from such a painful experience.
IGOR follows a tightly knit narrative, surrounding a love triangle of sorts. It centers around a character who fights for someone’s love who isn’t fully committed to them and is still holding onto their current or past lover. Whether it be all one story based on true events, or one that pulls from numerous previous relationships into one fictional story, the album follows a clear story arc. Regardless of the specific situation laid out across IGOR though, Tyler meticulously expresses the wide array of feelings that come along with a broken heart.
Inherent and tasteful crackling graces the soundscape of perhaps the most upbeat track on all of IGOR, the luminous and sweet “I THINK”, which cheerfully represents the unexplainable, warm emotion one feels when falling in love with someone they can actually see a future with. However, even this track shows an apprehensive Tyler, as he insinuates signs of insecurity in the first verse, talking about the relationship heading in a direction that wouldn’t fully support his interests. As the previous track “EARFQUAKE” suggests, this person may not be transparent with Tyler about their feelings and he’s having trouble reading them, fearing that they’ll leave him. Despite this though, the lush and layered anthem featuring thundering bass that matches the title of the song, along with a fitting verse from Playboi Carti, proves this person’s unhealthy dependency on their love interest. The sentiment of uncertainty presented on “I THINK” carries into “RUNNING OUT OF TIME”, a realization that a significant other’s love for their partner is fleeting. Time tests the strength of relationships, and usually, after an extended period of time, people end up on different pages, resulting in a breakup. In the case of IGOR, there’s something, or more specifically someone, standing in the way of a lasting relationship between Tyler and his love interest.
“Sometimes you gotta close a door to open a window.”
This is one of few vocal excerpts performed by Jerrod Carmichael that are scattered throughout the album. This one specifically kicks off the grimy “NEW MAGIC WAND” and serves as a mature sense of foreshadowing to later realizations that come to fruition on IGOR. No time is wasted, as the instant Carmichael finishes speaking, a filthy distorted bass line kicks in, and thus one of the most explosive songs on IGOR. We hear “please don’t leave me” repeated over and over, followed by one of Tyler’s most chaotic verses to date, along with some ethereal pitched vocals, making it a true cry for help that proves one’s anxieties about losing their partner.
Tyler takes this sentiment and transforms it into the song equivalent of an outburst toward their romantic partner, hoping that there is a way to instantly change their partner’s feeling by eliminating the other party from the equation so that “we can finally be together”. It’s the first outbreak, the first fit of rage from the protagonist, which tends to signal the downfall of every relationship. Anger of this sort can be felt by many at some point, either during a relationship, or after it ends, and it’s not uncommon to feel this way if someone we love chooses to be with someone else.
“NEW MAGIC WAND” starts to push closed that door that Carmichael is talking about, the door that represents this deteriorating relationship. This is the first time Tyler realizes that this person is detrimental to his well-being, identifying them as a negative force in his life that sucks his energy more than anything. It’s through this realization that the door begins to shut, and the light from the window starts to shine through.
This realization directly comes to a head as the protagonist faces their partner on “A BOY IS A GUN”, which serves as a turning point on the album, opening the floodgates, and shifting awareness to action. This song itself actually works as a full encapsulation of the album and relationships in general, representing the polar opposites of a relationship, beginning with the hello that kicks off every relationship, and ending with one of the parties telling their lover off for good. This is done through genius sample work of Pondera Twins Plus One singing “started with a mere hello” that repeats several times throughout the track. This sample is a small inclusion that adds fuel to this beautifully soulful cut and evokes feelings of nostalgia for any listener who has been in a romantic relationship.
No one forgets that first hello, before they can prepare for anything that follows it, including the saddening downfall of the beautiful relationship that the “hello” blossoms into. “Stay the fuck away from me. Stay the fuck away from me. Stay the fuck away from me. I ain’t gon’ repeat myself but stay the fuck away from me.” Tyler acknowledges the unhealthy nature of his relationship with this person, realizing that this person treats him best at times, but is also evidently dangerous to him. The result is Tyler telling his lover off, declaring this person to leave his life, as they’re someone who is actively dragging him down, whether they realize it or not. This further pushes the door to a close, as Tyler puts his well-being above anyone else’s as he should, and as a result, pushing away his now former lover. Coming to this understanding that one may be in a relationship that causes them more harm than good is a key part of closing that door and moving toward an optimistic future.
“But at some point, you come to your senses.”
Sometimes it takes hitting rock-bottom to make an adjustment to move toward the light, and on IGOR, that rock bottom is the tumultuous “WHAT’S GOOD”. It’s a turning point on the album for the better, resulting in a mature decision to take the actions needed to move on, and move toward that light that will bring the protagonist peace. After the events of “A BOY IS A GUN”, Tyler realizes how difficult it is to leave someone, resulting in him returning to them on “PUPPET”, but “WHAT’S GOOD” is the final wakeup call that this won’t fly for long. The track is an eclectic and hard-nosed banger that is all over the place and signifies absolute lawlessness, serving as a point of no return for the heartbroken. It’s at this point that Tyler “sees the light” as we hear at the end of the track and realizes he’s driving himself insane over a person who doesn’t feel the same way about him, causing more pain than pleasure in pursuit of his love interest. It’s at this point that he takes a leap of faith and starts lets go of a future with this person.
“I don’t know what’s harder, letting go or just being okay with it.”
“GONE, GONE / THANK YOU” is an important song to the narrative of IGOR. Not only is it an acceptance of letting go and saying goodbye to a future with a past lover, but it questions the protagonist’s love for this person. It separates residual feelings from true love, stepping back, and considering that maybe they don’t truly love this person after all the ways they wronged them in the past. It takes an extreme level of maturity to realize that this may be the case, but it only makes it easier to move on. Tyler’s verse on here to end the “GONE, GONE” portion of the track includes a metaphor to two different blueprints of a building, accepting that everything happens for a reason and these two were on different paths that weren’t fully meant to line up. He also acknowledges the difficulty that comes with feeling lonely, aware of the fact that his ex is spending time with someone else instead of him and he has noone: “you got your thing, I got nothing, but memories.” This causes his more anguish, but he accepts that it’s okay to feel this way, and in turn it helps him to find peace.
“You never lived in your truth, I’m just happy I lived in it / But I finally found peace, so peace”. Finding peace with the undesirable outcome of a relationship can take months, years even, but to finally find peace is such an incredible feat for the heartbroken. This sentiment carries into the second part of this song, the glitzy “THANK YOU”, which serves as a final conclusion to the relationship, looking at it for what it was and smiling because it happened.
However, this song also expresses being understandably agitated and sorrowful that it’s over, partially losing hope for the future because of how it ended. “Thank you for the love. Thank you for the joy. But I don’t want to ever wanna fall in love again. Thank you for the time. Thank you for your mind. But I’m never gonna fall in love again.” This is an understandable feeling for one who has lost someone they were with for so long. It’s this feeling deep down that questions whether the experience was worth it. Was the love and the joy worth the pain and suffering? Usually, right away the answer seems to be no, but time and the right person can change that. However, nothing can change that conclusion without first letting go of the past and closing that door.
Letting go is easier said than done, but is something we all have to do at some point for our own sake. Sometimes letting go can haunt us, wondering if there was something that could have led a relationship down a positive path. But other times, longing for what one had with another person is something that should be overpowered so that one can move on with their life, and leaving something behind doesn’t mean it’s forgotten.
This is how Tyler expresses himself on “I DON’T LOVE YOU ANYMORE”, facing the sad reality that sometimes our feelings give us mixed signals due to history, and we need to come to our senses and figure out if we really love someone, or just miss what we had with that person, especially if they hurt us.
On this track, Tyler realizes that this person is wasting his time and they just aren’t worth it anymore. On the hook we hear “I don’t love you anymore”, and at one point towards the back end of the track, we hear an emphasis on “-more”, almost as if Tyler is trying to convince himself that he doesn’t love this person anymore because he knows he shouldn’t due to the circumstances. Regardless of if he truly doesn’t love this person, or understands that he shouldn’t, “I DON’T LOVE YOU ANYMORE” is a step in the right direction at the very least. This acceptance in and of itself, realizing that your love for someone is gone, can be incredibly upsetting, especially when one still clearly has feelings for the person they’re letting go of. Tyler raps, “What now? Movin’ on, but how? Uh, somethin’, my feelings in the lost and found, now I’m stuck, forever, and ever…”, accepting not only the end of the relationship, but also the difficulty that comes with this acceptance. As hard as it can be, the sooner one realizes this, the sooner they can move on.
“Exactly what you run from you end up chasing”
This is the only vocal interlude that earns its own spot in the tracklist on IGOR, and for good reason, functioning as a concept that can explain the cycle of heartbreak. For one, this idea serves as this beautiful overarching theme about chasing love in future relationships after running from it in past relationships. As highlighted on “GONE, GONE / THANK YOU”, one may be discouraged or lose hope about future relationships after their last one is thrown away, as the idea of starting over the entire process with someone they don’t even know exists yet is terrifying, but eventually, one will chase love again, and with that, repeat the cycle with someone new. In the context of the album though, it foretells some of the events that appear later on the project, like the return to a past lover on “PUPPET”, after Tyler finds himself completely controlled by and addicted to his partner after trying to leave them.
“ARE WE STILL FRIENDS?” is also a moment of chasing what one runs from, trying to maintain a relationship with an ex after a breakup, perhaps to possibly reignite something down the road. This questioning of remaining friends with a past lover would’ve been a crime had it been left off this album, as this is a question that always seems to arise following breakups and this album covers the full cycle of a relationship splendidly. Sonically, the song is a luscious and colorful end to the project, and features some elegant and heartfelt vocals from Pharrell Williams, leaving the listener feeling optimistic from the bright and layered production. The question of “ARE WE STILL FRIENDS?” is something that could probably create enough material for a whole other album depending on the situation, and it works as a perfect closer that leaves a lot up for interpretation, because all this really is, is a question. The album does end on a happy note sonically, but the reality is that ex-lovers can run into some trouble trying to remain friends, and it usually ends with one saying goodbye, at least for a while.
IGOR is a mature and honest representation of heartbreak. It paints a picture of an unhealthy relationship that “starts with a mere hello” and ends in the worst of ways. It’s not just a sad breakup album, it’s a compelling and triumphant tale of a character looking inward to discover their true potential and move on without a person who is important to them. It steps back and questions why we love who we love, making the necessary adjustment to move towards a brighter future. IGOR is the realization of a person coming to grips with their true worth. It’s an acceptance of heartbreak, realizing that it’s okay to cry, pout, and wallow. It’s not okay to lose hope though, because one day, after one gets past all of the heartache, there will be a day that they can smile.
Listen to IGOR in full, the way it is intended to be heard, below:
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